More than sushi

David Tay of Sushi Monzta, Johor Baru
More than sushi at Sushi Monzta

The moment you step into Sushi Monzta, you are ushered into a charming café with clean lines and subdued colours that work together to soothe and relax.  The casual dining ambience invites you to unwind and gear your tastebuds to savour the freshest sashimi and your favourite sushi selections in a menu of Japanese cuisine.  The tidy and comfy café along Jalan Perang, one of Taman Pelangi’s food streets, is fast becoming popular with fans of Japanese food for several reasons.

Behind his counter, sushi chef David Tay Siew Meng, 53, works almost non-stop to prepare roll after roll of various types of maki while his wife, Alice, helps to serve the freshly made sushi rolls.  He and his wife have a history in Japanese cuisine because in 1988, they started working in a Japanese restaurant in New York City. 

When Tay started to be trained as an apprentice under Chef Hirotakaida of Okura Japanese Restaurant in New York’s Third Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets, his main tasks were mopping floors, washing dishes and chopping food.  This was part of his training to know every aspect of the kitchen operations and learnt the discipline to make use of slow times to clean and maintain every area of the business so that everything was always spotlessly clean. 

Smoked Duck on stick [Left], Teriyaki Scallop and Smoked
Duck on skewers, Spider Roll [Background]
Later he also learnt the art of preparing Kyodo style food from Chef Toshi in Mishima Japanese Restaurant on Lexington Avenue 23rd Street and the principles of cooking without using garlic, oil and monosodium glutamate (MSG). 

When Tay and his family returned to Johor Baru in 1996, he applied these skills when he worked with Tokugawa Japanese Restaurant, the second Japanese restaurant in the city.  After 13 years there, Tay and his wife pooled their resources to start their own venture in Sushi Monzta.

Since July 2010, former Tokugawa customers have been finding their way to Sushi Monzta and are now regulars, thrilled to continue enjoying Tay’s creations. Using ingredients from various sources locally and abroad, especially fresh seafood from Scandinavian countries, Tay is whipping up popular choices like California inside-out rolls and Spider rolls.  A closer look at these favourite rolls shows that Tay believes in using the right balance of vinegared rice and ingredients so that you can taste an equal amount with every bite.

Right balance of rice and fillings in
California inside-out Roll
Don’t worry.  Spider Rolls does not have any spiders in them.  They are so named because Tay designed a maki with crispy soft shell crabs and creatively arranged their legs on the roll to resemble spiders.  

Fans of smoked duck will enjoy the juicy chunks of meat served on skewers and a teriyaki scallop and smoked duck combo.  In this set, asparagus sticks are rolled in a juicy slice of smoked duck and skewered along with a scallop and mushroom.  

Ask for these off-menu yakitori creations that are best savoured as appetizers with sips of warm sake.  Another favourite appetizer must be kawahagi – chewy sticks of white fish skin.

Sushi Monzta has an interesting menu of fresh sashimi, teriyaki, tempura, noodles and rice as well as a wide selection of sushi.  For dessert, there’s not only Green Tea ice-cream but real Rum ‘n Rasin ice-cream.  Located at No. 22 Jalan Perang, Taman Pelangi, the café is open daily from 11.30am to 3pm and from 5pm to 10pm, except on Tuesday.  Tel: 607 – 3311172.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 19 May 2011

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